Ode to the pressure cooker – springbok pie

We had some family that came to visit from Naboomspruit.  It was one of those surprises resulting in at least being able to share two dinners together.  This naturally meant that the second dinner was arranged around the renowned Eybers table.  As mentioned in my fried chicken post, this table means hours of eating and chatting.

This time instead of whipping out a couple of my recipe books, I decided the main will be ‘boerekos’.  My home cooked food will never taste like my gran’s or mom’s, but it just felt so apt to serve up something traditional.

Gran’s plates still in use

Venison pie and to be specific springbuck was the chosen feature of the main.  The important trick to this recipe is that you must marinade the meat for at least 8 hours.  The marinade imparts most of the flavour, which leaves you with very little to add when make the filling for the pie.  The marinated meat spends an hour in the pressure cooker after marinating.

With the meat ticking away in the pressure cooker, it reminded me of Christmas time as a child.  Together with the family from the area we normally all went camping on the coast over the Christmas time.  That included Gran from the Karoo farm.  Even the cats and dogs would get bundled in the car for the trip.  Naturally Christmas lunch meant that everyone came together in the communal open area, with the woman bringing along their contribution for the lunch.  Do keep in mind this is South Africa and we don’t have a white Christmas.  So, recipes consisted of all cold offerings, nicely plated, with pickles and sauces.  The ladies all started cooking in advance, as Christmas Eve meant carol time and Christmas morning, time for gifts.

The family catching up round a fire

Nicely stowed among our kitchen goods in the caravan, was mom’s pressure cooker.  It traveled along to cook whatever was mom’s roast for the Christmas table.   I remember the faint hiss in the tent, meaning there’s a roast of some sort being prepared.  As it spent it’s time on the gas stove, beautiful smells filled the tent. With these smells we were reminded that Christmas lunch was almost upon us.

Going back to those times, reminds me how the simple things were enjoyed on those camping trips.  There were no TV’s, no cell phones (it didn’t exist yet!), kids didn’t have to be watched like hawks (except when they went swimming).  It was the time where an ice cream cone on the beach, with the smell of sun tan lotion was a thing of memories. Where sitting on camping chairs, with a fire going for the atmosphere, was actually enjoyed for a Christmas day.  And the days where it was a huge family gathering.  In this day and age we’ve lost the ability to enjoy the simple things – from a beautiful sunset, to simply sitting with your toes in the sand and a good book.  We tend to chase some form of stimulation or action, forgetting that sometimes you must simply just sit, breathe and take in. So while it’s getting closer to the silly season, try to remember that.

Springbok pie
500ml Red wine
45ml (3 Tbsp) Coriander seeds, roasted and roughly ground
4 Bay leaves, broken
5 Cloves, whole
7 Cardamom pods, broken
4 Garlic cloves, peeled and bruised
6 Sprigs of fresh thyme (alternatively 30ml dried thyme)
2 kg of Springbok neck (still on the bones)
(We were lucky to get the so to speak ‘off-cuts’ after the buck was cut up into the preferred portions from a friend. And in true farm style of using everything, we used this.)
500ml Beef stock
15ml (1 Tbsp) Olive oil, for sautéing
15ml (1 Tbsp) Butter, for sautéing
1 Medium onion, finely chopped
250g White mushrooms, sliced
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
45ml (3 Tbsp) Cake flour
250ml (1 Cup) Beef stock
15ml (1 Tbsp) Nutmeg, freshly grated
Salt & pepper to taste
400g Puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg, lightly beaten
Mix all the marinade ingredients together, pour over the meat, cover, place in the fridge and let it marinade.  Note that you have to use a casserole that won’t react with the wine, so stick to glass or enamel.  During marinating time, stir around the meat every so often to cover everything with the marinade again.

After the meat has marinated, place the meat as well as the marinade in the pressure cooker.  Add the 500ml of beef stock, heat up the pressure cooker and when it starts to boil cover with the lid and let the steam build up.  Turn down when it’s reached the right pressure. (I’m still using the old pressure cooker that went on the camping trips.  Methods will differ according to your model of pressure cooker.  So follow the instructions that apply to your model.) I kept the meat in the pressure cooker for about 1 hour. You can check the meat after 30 minutes if you prefer.

Remove the meat from the pot and let it cool down.  When it’s cool enough to handle, start removing the meat from the bones.  I normally get my hands in there, your best tools in the kitchen remember.  It will just ensure that you don’t end up with bits of bone in your pie. (This is where the lemon comes in.  Rub your hands with a slice of lemon to get rid of the meat smell from your hands, as it can be lingering when you use your hands.)

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy based pot.  Sauté the onions until they’re transparent.  Add the mushrooms and cook these until they’re just starting to look cooked through.  Add the garlic and then the cake flour.

Stir this up so all the veg are coated with the flour.  Now add the meat, stirring everything through so the meat also gets coated with the flour.

Add the 250ml of beef stock.  Cook it a bit more on a very low heat.  You’ll see that it will seem as if your mixture is starting to thicken a bit. If it doesn’t look thick enough, add some more flour.

Now it’s time to get your flavours right.  Add the grated nutmeg, and some salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust your seasoning accordingly.  Let this slowly simmer away.  Be careful it doesn’t stick at the bottom of the pot.

Prepare a pie dish by either rubbing it with melted butter, or give it a spray with a non-stick spray.

It’s all up to you, you can do a ‘bottom and a lid’ for your pie.  If doing both, roll out your puff pastry, measure it and cut it where it’s the right size to line the pie dish.

Line the pie dish with the puff pastry, allowing for a bit of an overhang.  Now add the filling to the pie dish, use some water and brush the edges of your bottom casing and add the lid to the pie.  Crimp it with a fork or use your fingers to make sure the lid and the bottom casing are attached to each other.

Cut off any excess pastry and use this to make any decoration that you want on top of your pie.

Brush the top of your pie with the egg.  Put in the oven and bake until the pastry is golden brown and nicely puffed up.  Around 30 – 40 minutes, dependent on the size of the pie and your oven’s heat.

Remove and let it rest a bit.  Then dish up.

I served this with a nice creamy mash and minted peas.

Max dressed up, ready to also join a camping trip

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